A new study in Science Advances reports that one-third of tropical African plants are also headed toward extinction. Deforestation, land-use changes, population growth, economic development, and climate change are dangerously threatening both animal and plant species in western Africa, Ethiopia, parts of Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to researchers, 33 percent of plant species are nearing extinction, and another third are likely rare and may be threatened in the near future. The loss of biodiversity jeopardizes the future of all species, including humans.
Global wind speeds have increased significantly over the past nine years, report scientists in a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, noting that changes in the patterns of ocean and atmospheric circulation are the most likely influences. This is good news for the wind energy industry, since researchers believe that this will allow energy produced by wind to grow by about 37 percent. According to the study, if the trend continues for the next decade, wind power could rise to 3.3 million kilowatt hours by 2024.
The state of California will no longer buy cars from General Motors, Chrysler, or Toyota because those companies sided with the Trump administration over the rollback of emissions levels. According to a CNN report in November, the state will only purchase vehicles from automakers that recognize the tough greenhouse gas emissions standards set by the California Air Resources Board. This will hit the automakers hard in their wallets. Reuters reports that from 2016 to 2018 California spent $58.6 million on vehicles from GM, $55.8 million from Fiat Chrysler, and $10.6 million from Toyota. Currently Trump and the so-called Environmental Protection Agency are trying to strip the right to set tougher emissions standards from California and thirteen other states that adopted the rules California set.
The US economy is being hit hard by decreasing foreign student enrollment. Since the fall of 2016, it's lost $11.8 billion and more than 65,000 related jobs. The loss of international students is hurting many universities financially. For example, California State University at Northridge reported a $6.5 million loss since 2016. There are several theories as to the reason for the decline in international enrollment: a belief by foreign students that obtaining a visa for the United States is more difficult, high tuitions coupled with the US dollar's strength compared to other currencies, as well as students' fear of rising gun violence and hostile rhetoric in the United States.
Abortion is still accessible in Dayton, Ohio, thanks to the Ohio Department of Health, which granted a license to the Women's Med Center, the last abortion clinic in the Dayton area. Just two weeks prior, the Ohio Supreme Court had denied an appeal from the center, upholding lower court rulings that required the facility to immediately stop all surgical abortions and get a transfer agreement for its patients to go to a nearby hospital. The license allows the clinic to resume providing full abortion services to its clients.
In another win for women's rights, the US District Court in Alabama issued a preliminary injunction, blocking an extreme law in that state that would have banned abortion in nearly all cases and threatened physicians with up to ninety-nine years in prison for performing the procedure. The ban was set to take effect November 15.
The US Supreme Court announced October A, 2019, that it would hear arguments in a challenge to Louisiana's law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges to a local hospital. Just three years ago, the high court held that a nearly identical Texas law was unconstitutional. But despite that ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the Louisiana law, leading to this first challenge for abortion rights under the tenure of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
A federal lawsuit filed November 8 challenges the widespread and illegal promotion of religion by officials of the Smith County School System in Tennessee. According to the two plaintiff families, the school system's unlawful activities--including school-directed prayer during mandatory assemblies, the distribution and display of Bibles in classrooms, prayers broadcast through loudspeakers at school events, coach-led prayers with student athletes, as well as the display of a large cross painted on the wall of a school athletic facility--have spanned numerous years and ostracized their children. Such proselytizing is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and violates the rights of all students.
KAREN ANN GAJEWSKI is a contributing editor to the Humanist and a documentation project analyst.